With 90 percent of Americans admitting to using laptops and cell phones in the moments before going to bed — a behavior that is associated with symptoms of insomnia — researchers from Columbia University Medical Center are investigating whether a solution can be found in a method that would curb the negative effects of electronic device light exposure.
Understanding that most people are unlikely to alter their device behavior, researchers examined how consumers might use amber-tinted lenses to block the blue-wavelength light from LED devices, which is linked to suppressed melatonin and increased alertness.
Enlisting the participation of 14 individuals, each with an insomnia diagnosis, researchers wanted to determine if blocking the blue light from LED devices in the hours leading up to bedtime would improve sleep.
Participants wearing wrap-around frames with either amber-tinted lenses or clear placebo lenses were monitored for seven consecutive nights. Four weeks after the initial testing, the participants originally wearing the placebo lenses were then monitored wearing the amber-tinted lenses and vice versa.
Among the findings, researchers determined that those viewing the electronic devices through amber-tinted lenses slept 30 minutes longer than participants viewing the devices through the placebo lenses. Likewise, participants reported in a survey that their overall sleep quality had improved when viewing the devices through the amber-tinted lenses.
"Now more than ever we are exposing ourselves to high amounts of blue light before bedtime, which may contribute to or exacerbate sleep problems," said Ari Shechter, PhD, assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia. "Amber lenses are affordable and they can easily be combined with other established cognitive and behavioral techniques for insomnia management."
Noting that many smartphone screens can be adjusted to emit amber light instead of the blue light, Shechter continued, "I do recommend using the amber setting on smartphones at night, in addition to manually reducing the brightness levels. But blue light does not only come from our phones. It is emitted from televisions, computers, and importantly, from many light bulbs and other LED light sources that are increasingly used in our homes because they are energy-efficient and cost-effective."
“The glasses approach allows us to filter out blue-wavelength light from all these sources, which might be particularly useful for individuals with sleep difficulties," Schechter added.
The study is published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.